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Chaudhry's lawyer tells court they are being intimidated
K J M Varma

Islamabad, May 23 (PTI) Lawyers of suspended Chief Justice Iftikar M Chaudhry were under "enormous government pressure" and receiving threatening calls, the judge's main attorney today complained to the Supreme Court which described the situation as "extraordinary".

Chaudhry's lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan told the apex court, hearing the top judge's plea challenging President Pervez Musharraf's reference of allegations against him, that lawyers of the petitioner were being threatened by anonymous callers and their telephones were being tapped.

"We are under enormous pressure from the government. One witness has been murdered another has been picked up," he said apparently referring to the killing Supreme Court official Syed Hamad Raza on May 10

Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday, who is heading the 13-member bench, told the counsel that there was an "extraordinary situation" and hoped that things would settle down in due course.

The full bench also said that the re-employment of retired judges in Pakistan has become a "malice" and the government should give "minimum" opportunities to superannuated judges.

Justice Ramday asked the government to make a policy to give minimum opportunities of re-employment to the retired judges. "It is a malice on the independence of the judiciary," he said.

The observation came when Chaudhrys lawyer Ahsan started his arguments on the maintainability of the petition.

Ahsan said that the government lawyers have not read his petition completely as he has not challenged the proceeding of the Supreme Judicial Council which was hearing allegations against Chaudhry.

He said that indirectly the government lawyers have been saying that any judge could face such an action on the part of the government.

He added that the Supreme Judicial Council is not a judge-removing body but it is only to protect the judges.

He said that narrowest ambit is given to the Supreme Judicial Council. "The SJC is to protect the security of the tenure of the judge".

"It is not easy to ask a judge to sit home, but if such a situation prevails a reference can be filed against every judge", he said, prompting Justice Ramday to remark, "both parties are here to terrify us."

Aitzaz said that every judge is carrying his own cross.

"No I am carrying a crescent as I have to go through the Aapara daily", Justice Ramday remarked referring to the locality in Islamabad where the Lal Masjid housing radical clerics is located.

The clerics are involved in a standoff with the government over imposing of Shariah here.

"You have to keep this thing in mind that every body is responsible for his deeds, and no one will be pardoned in the end", Justice Nawaz Abbasi said.

The Federation's counsel Malik Muhammad Qayyum today completed his arguments before the full court in support of his contention that the petition of Chaudhry was not maintainable.

In his arguments spread over three days, he said the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) was a constitutional body and its proceedings could not be challenged in any court of law.

Malik Qayyum said individual grievance could not be brought before the top court under the Constitution.

So, Justice Chaudhry's petition could not be entertained in the light of that judgement.

Ahsan was still arguing when the 13-judge bench headed by Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday adjourned the proceedings till tomorrow.

The court decided to also meet on Friday for hearing the case, though it had earlier announced it would hold four sessions every week.

Ahsan contended that the petition was maintainable because the petitioner has not challenged SJC proceedings but the action of the referring authority in his petition being heard by the full court.

The counsel said the petitioner has raised various questions regarding submission of reference against him on March 9 including can a judge or Chief Justice of the Superior Court be suspended, restrained from functioning, sent on forced leave? Can an Acting Chief Justice be appointed in the presence of a Chief Justice?

Besides Justice Iftikhar, other petitioners include the Pakistan Bar Council, Supreme Bar Court Association, Adaliya Bachao Committee and Watan Party.

When Malik Qayyum concluded his arguments on the maintainability of the petitions another pro-government lawyer wanted to start his arguments.

Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday remarked that where is the Federation. Who is the counsel for the Federation.

"Every body seems to be the counsel of the Federation, we are not hearing any body else from the Federation", he said.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
FILED IN: |Pakistan
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